Viewpoint: The Mediterranean Cypress

Anyone who has ever visited the region will immediately recognise this scene as quintessential Tuscany – the green fields, the rolling hills, the sense of timeless peace – and those trees…

Screen shot 2016-07-04 at 14.42.09

The Mediterranean Cypress (cupressus sempervirens) is as much a symbol of Tuscany as the Duomo of Florence and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A native of the eastern Mediterranean, here we are in fact at the northwestern most extent of its natural range, though the tree is now cultivated throughout southern Europe.

It will also grow quite happily in many parts of North America, where it is known as the Italian or Tuscan cypress, and even in milder areas of the United Kingdom, where it is often called the ‘pencil pine’ or ‘green pencil’.

Particularly in Muslim countries it is sometimes called the black cypress, or the graveyard cypress, because of its ancient association with death and the consequent custom of planting it in and around graveyards.